Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Holiday!

I'm talking about Easter and Passover and if you're a Pagan, have a great Spring..   If you hid eggs?  I hope you find every one! 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Buffet

We're doing the Easter meal as a buffet.  We bought a triple dish warmer at Target and that will make it possible to keep the hot things hot without running back and forth from the kitchen and the oven. 

This is the traditional dish here.  It comes from a cousin's mother-in-law and that was some years ago!  It goes well with a ham and is less trouble to eat than if you'd covered the ham with rings of sliced pineapple. 

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs (2 eggs works just as well)
5 slices of white sandwich bread
allspice and nutmeg to your taste
1 can 20 oz. crushed pineapple

Cube the bread and set it aside.  Cream the butter and sugar together.  Beat in one egg at a time, add the seasonings.  Add the can of crushed pineapple - juice and all.  Mix well, letting it "steep" so to speak and then bake at 350 for an hour.  It will puff up and turn a golden brown.

This meal is heavy on the sweet side - the honey-glazed ham, the pineapple dressing so I wanted a dessert that while easily as rich was perceived as "light, palate clearing."  Thus Key Lime Pie.  I got this recipe at the Dockside restaurant, Savannah, GA.  They'd had so many requests for it, they'd printed it out on 3x5 file cards!

1 store-bought graham-cracker crust pie shell.
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup bottled lime juice
1 14-oz. can condensed sweetened milk

Unwrap the pie crust and put it in the oven for 10 min.. at 325.
Mix the egg yolks, lime juice and canned milk together
Pour mixture into pie shell and bake about 15 min. at 325

Richie couldn't resist a  package of Peeps so when this pie has cooled down, I'm going to cut it into wedges and put a bright yellow Peep at the crust's edge of each serving.  Should at least get a laugh!

Unfortunately we won't be able to have the chicken races down the center of the cleared table as Richie only found one of them.  They're wind-up white chickens who lay "eggs" (reusable jelly beans - you don't want to eat one considering where it came from and the floors they've fallen onto)  as they walk.   


Friday, March 29, 2013

"Cheese It, It's Da Cops!"

Once upon a time, this was an alert sounded by the kids who were acting as look-outs during minor street crimes on the streets of old New York.

Today, Cheez-Its are small, square yellow crackers flavored with cheddar cheese and salt.    While idly staring at the news pop-ups online, I was startled to see recipes for using them not only as a snack but as a mac and cheese topping.  Other ideas included exchanging crushed Cheez-Its for the bread crumbs in Italian meatballs.  I don't think folding bits into milk chocolate ice cream would prove rewarding, but what do I know?  Another suggestion was to mix sour cream and crushed Cheez-Its as a coating for baked chicken breasts. 

But don't rush out to squander hard-earned money on a box of Cheez-Its.  Here is a recipe for making your own!

8 oz. cheddar, coarsely shredded
1/2 stick sweet butter
1 cup all-purpose flower
2 T ice water

Cream the butter and cheese together, gradually stir in the flour.  You'll have a crumbly mixture so use the ice water judiciously to turn the mixture into dough.  Roll it out to Cheez-It width and score it with a knife.  Carefully put this on a cookie sheet and bake it at 375 for 15 minutes.  Check on it from time to time, don't just set the timer and go whistling off to do something else.

It also occurs to me to use this dough for the crust of an apple pie... it's just pie crust  anyhow. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

This Just In!

I was talking to a friend the other night, who was going on and on about her friend Jackie's new beau.  It seems he brings her flowers on a daily basis, frequently takes her out to dinner and, all in all, is seen to be a perfect gentleman and an excellent prospective husband.

Idly I asked where Jackie had met this paragon and my friend says, "The Home Improvement section at Wal-Mart!"

Given what I have seen of the Wal-Mart shoppers in the streams of photos of them, I was suspicious and said so. 

"No, no!" my friend protested.  "The day after she met him, I read an article in the paper about "The Best Places To Meet A Man" and "home improvement, Wal-Mart" was the answer!

All I can tell you is:  caveat emptor both sexes. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

EGG-stravaganza at Centinela Feed & Pet Supplies

Mark your calendars -- Thursday, March 28th and Monday, April 1st, if you go into a Centinela Feed and Pet Supplies, don a pair of rabbit ears and sit for your portrait, they will give you either a furry mouse for your cat or a cotton rope toy for your dog.  FREE!

Other Easter bargains for your animals include:
A Jolly Egg Dog Toy - 20%
Duck Jerky - 25% off   It is not a good idea to have bought a duckling for your kid for Easter; some confusion could ensue with your dog...
Fresh Cat Grass in a little pot - $1.99
Lamb Chop Dog Toy - $4.99
24 Carrot Catnip Toy - looks like a carrot, but is filled with catnip. 

And an offer you surely can't refuse - come in Saturday, March 30th, and join in an Easter  egg hunt around the store.  Each egg found will reward the hunter with a piece of candy - Donated and Supported By The American Dental Socity. 

In my lifetime, Easter was always presented (more or less) as a religious holiday.  I can understand how the custom of giving Easter baskets filled with candy, etc. came to be as an expression of joy and of sharing with others.

What I can't understand is dragging your pet into a (supposedly) religious celebration.

Granted many people refer to Fluffy or Fido as "my dog son" and dote on them.  This is all well and good, but I draw the line at pretending to an animal that an Easter-themed gift salutes their religion.   

As a side note to the Ladies - The 99 Cent Store is offering wide-brim straw or paper hats in vivid colors for 99 cents.   You could really create a custom hat with fake flower accessories.  In fact, you could have a Hat Party - decorations, a hat and some good chilled Pinot Grigio.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Putting a Presidential Spin on A Snack Food

Former President, George Bush II, loved a Tex-Mex version of an old classic - Chex Mix.  As it happens about once a yeark I succumb to the desire for a bag of them.  I really love that buttery, salty taste of the cereal that looks like little tiny waffles.  Problem is, I don't want any of the rest of the things in the sack.  This recipe may solve my problem...

1 1/2 cups Corn Chex cereal
 1 1/2 cups Rice Chex  cereal
1 1/2 cups Wheat Chex cereal
1 1/2 cups pepitos
1 cup small thin pretzels
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1 1/2 T sweet butter, melted and then allowed to cool
1/2 T Yucatan Sunshine or other Mexican hot sauce
1/2 T Tabasco
1 T Worcestershire sauce
pinch of  ground cumin
pinch dried oregano
pinch of garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 250
Combine the chex, pepitos, pretzels and pistachios in a big bowl
In a small bowl put the butter and the rest of the seasonings and mix them well.  Then pour the mixture over the dry ingredients and softly stir them together.    Spread this mixture out carefully in a single layer across a cookie sheet and bake it for 45 minutes, stirring it gently around every 15 minutes.

If I ever actually got up off my derriere and made this, I'd leave out the pepitos, pretzels and pistachios.  It would save me from having to pick them out of the finished product...

Monday, March 25, 2013

Poor Mondays..

They seem to be the redheaded stepchild of the week.  Many of us have had a relaxing and fun weekend.  And Monday?  Back to the grind. 

In an effort to distract you from the Grim Reality, here are some lines on aging from a book called "What's So Funny About Getting Old?" by Ed Fischer and Jane Thomas Noland  Meadowbrook Press  $7  Unfortunately, the pages aren't numbered. 

"Middle age is when anything new you feel is most likely to be a symptom."  Laurence J. Peter

"Setting a good example for your children takes all the fun out of middle age."  William Feather

"Middle age is when the girl you smile at thinks you are one of her father's friends."  Henny Youngman

"I have everything now I had 20 years ago -- except now it's all lower."  Gypsy Rose Lee

"I'm so old I was born back when nighthood was in flower."  Anon.

"I'm so old my prom date was Fred Flintstone."  Anon.

"I'm too old to take turns."  Anon.

Palm Beach bumper sticker:  When I get old, I'm going to move north and drive slow."

"I used to dread getting older because I thought I would not be able to do the things I wanted to do, but now that I'm older, I find I don't want to do them."  Nancy Astor

More Nancy:  "I refuse to admit that I am more than 52, even if that does make my sons illegitimate." 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Richie's New Dish

Without breaking my elbow patting myself on the back, let me just say that teaching Richie to cook was a stroke of genius.  He has progressed to the point where he can look at a recipe, read the ingredients and sense how they would all work together.  He now reads cook books with the same enthusiasm I do. 

He clipped this out of the LA Times and made it last night.   A woman wrote the Times, asking for a specific recipe from the Music Center restaurant.  The restaurant was willing and the Times printed it but they admitted adapting it in some way so I don't know how close the following is to what the woman wanted or remembered.


6 14 oz. beef short ribs
pepper to taste
1/2 cup oil
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled
2 T tomato paste
1 T flour
2 cups dry red wine
2 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1 sprig rosemary
6 cups beef broth, divided
2 T butter
12 cups assorted mushrooms, cleaned but left whole
1 cup heavy cream - this is optional.  He didn't use it and it was never missed.

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Pepper the ribs, add the oil to the Dutch oven and sear the ribs.  When they're done, set them aside.

Put the onions, carrots, celery and garlic in the now-empty pot and cook stirring frequently.  They should be carmelized in 10 to 12 minutes  Skim any fat off.  

Stir in the tomato paste, then stir in the flour.  Add the spices and red wine and put the ribs back in the pot.  Add beef broth to cover the meat, cover the Dutch oven and bake until the meat is tender - about 2 1/2 hours.  Keep checking to make sure liquid covers the meat.

In a separate skillet, melt the butter and cook the mushrooms.  When they're done, put them in the platter you're going to serve the ribs - the ribs will be on top.  Reduce your red wine sauce to about four cups and serve as gravy for the meat.

If you do use the cream:  reduce the red wine sauce to about 4 cups, drain it (discarding all of the lovely vegetables.)  Add the cream and simmer until it thickens, then put the meat back in the pot and serve it. 

It turned out really well lovely and it smelled mouthwatering all afternoon.  The ultimate chef's compliment around here is "You should make that for company!" and I meant it when I said it after my first bite. 

Serves six and has 580 calories per serving, less without the cream.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Praising Primary Caregivers

Hate your job?  Hate knowing that when you get out of bed, you've got to go to work?  If you ever become a primary caregiver you will look back and laugh.  Caregiving goes on 24/7 unless you set out with a fully-formed plan. 

Consider some statistics -- AARP's 2009 report said that 48.9 million Americans care for an adult family member or friend.  These caregivers are primarily women whose average age is 48. 

Janice Kiecolt-Glaser's research says that first, Interleukin aka IL-6 is a protein that indicates stress in the body and two, caregivers stress levels are four times higher than in non-caregivers.  And this stress lingers for as long as three years after giving care has ended. 

Depression would seem to be a big part of the lives of caregivers.  It is sad to see a loved one in the throes of Alzheimers or near death with cancer.  We tend to remember them as they were and find it hard to see them as they are now.  To see a loved one who once smiled with anticipation as you approached to one who now asks, "Who are you?" is disheartening to say the least. 

Still, being a caregiver is one of the most loving (and stressful) things you can do for another.  The only way you are going to be able to do it though is to be mentally prepared and to have A Plan long before you may need to utilize it. 

Think about your family members and dear friends.  Consider their strengths and weaknesses, how far away they would have to travel to help you out and what would be, based on the relationship to the patient, the most helpful thing they can do.  Write it down just as if you were going to start tomorrow.   Put a star by the names of those people you consider most likely TO help out. 

Often, we don't recognise that our daily duties require so much time because we don't think about them; we just do them.  How long does it take to sweep a floor?  Clean a bathroom?  Load/unload the dishwasher?   

The one thing that you will miss the most is "alone time."  That's why your plan is going to be so necessary to give you just that. 

And, parents,  it would be extremely helpful if you would not insist on dying at home.  If you have visions of yourself, softly encased in a fluffy bed, looking around, muttering, "Goodbye blue curtains, goodbye dear rose pink walls..." I suggest you get a grip.  Dying, it would seem, is a combination of both morphine and your body shutting down.  Odds are good you won't be awake for either one. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Certainly a First For Me

Every Friday, Hermosa Beach has a Farmers Market.  One of the vendors sells various hot dogs and today I felt like noshing on a bacon-wrapped one. 

The vendor picks one out, puts it on a square of aluminum foil turns (to put it in the bun) and hands it to me.  I squeeze Dijon all down it, wrap it snugly up in the foil and stick it in my purse.  He also handed me a plastic knife and fork on a stack of paper napkins.   "Going uptown!" I said approvingly and he grinned.

Back at the car, I pick up my library book from the car floor ("The Innocent" by David Balducci) and start to unwrap my hot dog from the foil, remarking to myself, "Damn! This sucker stayed hot!"

When all was revealed -- it was a naked, bacon-wrapped hot dog but no bun.  I even peeked under the hot dog looking for it.  Now I knew why he'd added the knife and fork!

One of two things had happened -- either he'd surreptitiously noted my behind and decided, "This mama, she sure don't need no bun" or else Ladies of his Country eat a hot dog daintily with utensils.  None of this vulgar cramming it into one's mouth.   But it was a first.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

She's Baaack....

"The Art of French Cooking" by Fernande Garvin intrigued and amused me (as I hope it did you) so here are her thoughts on wine.  Incidentally, her book is still sold at if you want a copy for yourself.

Admittedly, it came as something of a surprise to learn that she considers wine a living thing.  "Even more important to remember is the fact that wine is living.  It has a birth, a youth, a maturity, an old age and a death.  Like human beings, it is sometimes interesting when young, really at its best in maturity and declining in its old age." 

She writes that the French are surprised at the interest Americans show in the wine's year.  "Was 1967 a good year?" they enquire.  A French person would shrug and tell you that one cannot tell if it was a good season or a bad one for any given wine unless you live next door to the vineyard.  Sunny in the city may mean rain  in the country. 

Continuing her fine use of rhetoric, she goes on to say that wine can also be compared to a beautiful woman.  A great beauty may once have been an ugly little girl who finally grew into her beauty.  Conversely, a pretty child may mature to ugliness as an adult. 

Garvin flatly states that the French drink wine with all meals which is wildly incorrect.  Maybe a worker headed for work might dash into a bar on the way, but it's for one of the lethal little coffees so popular in France and not a shot of wine.  Depending on what the lunch is, a beer taken with it may be more conducive to digestion than a glass of wine.

She seems equally sure of herself here:  A French housewife would be outraged if people were to drink water with a meal she has cooked.  "A fine meal without wine is like a beautiful diamond presented wrapped in a piece of brown paper."  The clue here is a "fine meal."  Not every meal in France could be described as "fine" by any means.

We are to open any wine half an hour before we drink it and to use bell-shaped glasses to drink it.  "This is because as soon as it comes in contact with air, wine begins to breathe and the oxygen develops the full strength of the bouquet" which is an unnerving thought to many including me.   I wonder if it gasps, falters and then begins "breathing" normally.

In fact this whole thing with wine is turning out to be considerably more activy than the passive liquid in a glass I'm accustomed to seeing.  Birthing, teen years,  middloe age, breathing -- it's enough to make me give up my Pinot Grigio!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Delicious Find From 1958!

Get ready for some cultural shocks... Richie has been excavating in the several boxes of books in our garage and he's come up with a dandy.  It's called "The Art of French Cooking" by Fernande Garvin.

The first thing you will read on opening this book is a letter from S. Mark Taper, President of American Savings and Loan Association.  "We'd like to take this opportunity to personally thank you for visiting one of our 54 branches to pick up this cook book."  Back then, businesses offered incentives to physically come on down!

The dedication could be considered rather risque for a Savings and Loan - "To Jan, my husband, because there are no men like the ones his mother used to make."

In her introduction, she expresses her amusement by visitors to Frace who tell her that they've seen the natives enjoying course after course at the table with wines and a reviving shot of brandy at the end and yet, most of the women are slender, not fat.  Apparently back then visitors were not as observant.  A French woman may eat as little as three bites per course and they can nurse a glass of wine like the cheapest miser ever known to man.  You can eat anything you want to eat if you don't overdo it.

Garvin instructs us further:  "There is enough -- and much more digestible fat in fresh butter, cheese, milk and cream to make cooking fat quite unnecessary in a normal diet.  Shortening (!) allowed in the finished dish is responsible for most of bad cooking and overweight."

"And, of course, in France, milk is for infants and a glass of milk with the meal is inconceivable."  Zing!

She scolds the reader, "One of the first signs of a marriage going to the rocks is the wife's lack of interest in the preparation and serving of the meal.  'It's good enough for him' is implied in a neglectful approach to cooking."

Glorifying the little woman as chef, she states, "As for the cook herself, she, like the rest of the family, enjoys a delicious meal -- and her ego is supported by pride in her achievement and self-esteem for her generosity in devoting time, effort and talent to the family's happiness."

I would imagine that former feminists are now Googling "Fernande Garvin" in quite some fury.  Give her hell, ladies!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The New Art of Microscopic Writing

It seems that there is a literary fad creeping closer to us.  Writers are now examining the most minutia  of simple things that they can find.  The earliest example I read was called either "My House" or "My Home" and neither Google nor I can find it.  English guy, lived in a centuries old former manse?  He described in minute detail every room in it and all the whys and hows of the furnishings and purposes of the various rooms found therein. 

There's a new contender in this category and it is called "Consider the Fork, A History of How We Cook and Eat" by Bee Wilson   Basic Books  327 pages   $26.99 

Wilson was named BBC Radio's Food Writer of the Year, has written three previous books and holds a PhD from Tinity College, Cambridge. 

She tackles the simple wooden spoon in her introduction to the book.  She said that she had never been in a kitchen that didn't have one.  She remarked in passing, "Traditionally, it was given as a booby prize to the loser in a competition."  She points out that we cook with wooden spoons  for these advantages:  wood is non-abrasive, it is nonreactive and is a poor heat conductor - but we eat with metal spoons.  But at one time, we did eat with wooden spoons and were quite happy to have them. 

Further tidbits ... "However shrewdly designed it may be, an eggbeater does not fully achieve its purpose until someone picks it up and beats eggs.""Coffee has been consumed in England since the mid-17th century; oranges for juice and marmalade since 1290."

The book is full of interesting details and Wilson presents them with skill.  She displays a wry sense of humor which is quite pleasant.  Above all, the book is an interesting, fact-filled account that gives a true history of how we cook and eat."

Sunday, March 17, 2013

At the Parade

Hermosa Beach has had an annual St. Patrick's Day parade for years and we have gone to every one of them.  Looking back at the first ones, they were kind of low-tech.  Mark Conti, who produced them, standing in the street in front of the library, yelling out the names of the groups going by to yesterday's event which included a tent, some folding chairs and a DJ set-up with loudspeakers. 

Back in the day we had such as "Green Elvis" who was a tall, skinny black man in a green wig and green satin suit, driving his go-kart around in circles.  The Early Irish, who looked like a prehistoric commune,  marching glumly down Pier Avenue, dressed in burlap sacking. A local bar rented a flatbed truck, installed the sides and their clientele rode on it, yelling and throwing wrapped, hard candy.  The year "River Dance" was the rage, they put up a big sign on the truck that read "Liver Dance" which still amuses me.  

The only thing that seems to have survived from the Good Old Days is the Budweiser Hand Truck Precision Marching Team.  Using hand trucks holding cases of the brand, the members wheeled and turned in formation.  But they used to throw green bead necklaces and they didn't yesterday.

We agreed at the parade's end that it was mostly groups of children.  And reflecting on that, I realized something - Forget saving for college!  Today's parents have to save just to get them through primary school! 

The Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Bluebirds all require uniforms.  The kids in the marching bands need a uniform and the musical instrument of their choice.  The Kelly School of Irish Dance requires special shoes, a costume, lessons and fees.  Sports?  The mandatory white karate outfit with changing colored belts. 

The one area where parents got a break was the grade school runners.  They wore beat-up tennis shoes, baggy board shorts and ratty-looking t-shirts.  "We used to look just like that," I mused, amused. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

My Hero! (swoon)

That would be St. Patrick, who is said to have run all the snakes out of Ireland and into the sea where they perished.   I have a real phobia about snakes.  As I look back on a long and eventful life, my biggest act of bravery was letting a garter snake my smaller cousins had found curl around my wrist.   Such is my loathing that even a photo of one in, say, National Geographic will make me shudder and slam the magazine shut.    Involuntarily. 

Richie has no fear of snakes.  Once when we were visiting Albuquerque - or Taos? he came across a snake museum.  For a small admission fee, you could enter and admire the snakes which he did.  He got a certificate (xeroxed, you may be sure) for it, too.  Since the building was ramshackle is understatement.  It all looked like one good gust of wind would knock it flat and thus all of the snakes in it would be freed.  No thank, you.  I repaired to a nearby bar, closed the door behind me and had a beer. 

But it turns out that my hero worship of good St. Patrick was misinformed.  To be fair, so is the generally-accepted belief in Ireland and elsewhere that St. Patrick ran them off.  There have never been snakes in Ireland!

Ireland, 100 million years ago, when snakes had appeared elsewhere, was under the ocean.  Ireland only emerged and thawed some 15,000 yeas ago.  But due to the fact that Ireland is an island, the snakes haven't been tough enough to survive coming in by sea.   

Other lands that are snake-free (and that's a damned good thing) are New Zealand, Iceland, Greenland, Antarctica.  

"Success to bold St. Patty's fist
He was a saint so clever
He gave the snakes and toads a twist
And banished them forever! "  

Yeah, right!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Like It Or Not - You're Doing It!

And you may not even recognise that you are doing it -- you're aging.  Consider the following...

Centenarians are people 100 years old.  There are 70,490 of them in the U.S.  California has a huge population and we have 5,341 of them.  Interestingly, 67 per cent of them live below the poverty level, but 94 per cent said they have enough money to meet their needs.  And 76 pr cent of them proudly said, "We have enough to buy 'extras.'"

Most live independently until 92.  By age 100, most of them live in facilities, but a robust 15 per cent still live on their own.  If you're still looking for a wife (ahem, R and "D") 85% of those in facilities are women.  Supercentarians beat all the odds and made it to 110 OR OLDER. 

Don't Fall!  It's the leading cause of injury or death for people 65 and older.  More than 85 per cent of paramedic runs in Redondo are to assist a senior.  In San Diego, one out of 27 people age 85+ called 911.  One in three old people fall at home; when they are in a hospital or nursing facility the figure goes up to  1.5 falls per patient.    So, steady as you go.  Use the handrails on stairs, that's what they're there for.  Equip your shower or bath so that you can't fall down.  If you spill something on the kitchen floor - wipe it up then and there. Don't say, "I'll do it in a minute."   

Dental Woes - Nearly 25 per cent of 60 year olds nationwide have lost their natural teeth.  In California, only 13 pr cent of us have signigicant dental problems.  Residents here will clearly do anything to keep a youthful appearance and apparently that includes brushing and flossing. 

I had a recent dental appointment and when we got to rinse-and-spit which embarrasses me, I asked her what grosses her out the most?  (Would you like to make a living rummaging around in other people's mouths? Now that I think about it, maybe that's the reason dental  techs are so very well paid.) and she said, "Seniors who have lost strength in their arms or are unsteady on their feet and can no longer brush effectively.  Like I'll say, 'Oh, I see you had a steak last night' and they'll say, 'Oh, no - that was last week.'"

Spend the money - get an electric toothbrush.  You can always rest it on a tall dog while you brush. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Making Book on the New Pope

Like any other international organization, the Catholic church has had its share of changing leadership.  Their leaders are called "Pope" rather than Chief Executive Officer.

Given the changes that we have seen in the various Popes, I began to wonder if I could make any money betting on the length of service Pope Frances I will be able to  give.  I'm always up for making a buck and if it's church-related money, so much the better as I consider it to be tax-free.  Separation of church and state, ya know?

Papal Track Records

Pope John 23 from 1958 to 1963.  Died of stomach cancer at age 81..  Five years service.

Pope Paul IV from 1963 to 1978  Died of a massive heart attack, age 80.  15 years of service.

Pope John Paul 1st from 1978 to 1978.  Died of a heart attack, age 65

Pope John Paul II from 1978 to 2005.  Died age 84 with 27 years service.

Pope Benedict from 2005 to 2013, retired after eight years service. 

For the five Popes, 56 years of service averaging 11.2 years per Pope.

The total age for four of the former Popes (Benedict resigned) is 310 years, divided by four to equal a life span of 77.5.

Handicapping Pope Francis I

Positive Factors
Had Italian parents and old Italians are, generally-speaking, tougher than a boiled owl.
Said to live simply, cooking his pasta in his own little kitchen and using public transportation rather than being driven. 

Negative Factors
He is 76.  Prelates generally retire at 75.
He is clinically obese
He has one lung
So much for a simple life any longer

Since it's my book, I get first choice and my bet is five years,, putting him at 81 before retirement or death. 

Cousin Doug says less than five years.

What say you, Gentle Reader?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It's Not Your Turn!

For reasons known only to the editor, the March issue of Food & Wine is All Italian Month.  Excuse me?  March is Irish Month!  The Italians can have September for their Feast of San Gennaro! 

Appointing Mario Batali as Guest Editor is not doing any big favor to the Irish.   Everything in this issue whether food or wine is slanted to the Italians.  Not that there's anything wrong with Italians!  It's just that ... St. Patrick's Day?  You know?

In an attempt to curry favor with non-Italians, the Easter feast is lamb which might appeal to Greeks.  Matzoh Ball Soup, a Jewish classic, has been turned into an Italian "Matzoh Balls in Brodo (broth.)"

Still, this version does sound tasty.


1 large egg
2 T fresh ricotta cheese
2 T freshly-grated Parmigian-Reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish
1 T olive oil
pinch of sea salt
pinch of freshly-ground pepper
1/4 cup matzoh meal
6 cups vegetable or low-sodium broth
2 garlic cloves, lightlly crushed
1 small carrot, thinly sliced
tarragon leaves for garnish and I'd add "optionalo"

Whisk the egg in a bowl, add the cheeses, oil and pinches of salt and pepper.  Then stir in the matzoh flour and let it all sit for 10 minutes at room temperature.  When they've "rested" make 1-teas. sized balls.

In a big enough saucepan bring the broth to boil and add the garlic.  Gently put in the matzoh balls, cover the pan and let simmer over moderate heat for 30 minutes.  Then add the carrot, cover and let simmer until the carrot is tender.  Should take about 10 minutes.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with more cheese and the tarragon leaves, if used.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Oh, No! Grandpa's In The Casinio Again!

On the one hand, "recreational gambling" (nickels only?) is believed to be beneficial to seniors for these reasons:  socialization and mental stimulation.  The rates of alcohol/drug abuse found in younger gamblers doesn't occur in seniors.

Older and younger gamblers are equally subjected to an addiction to gambling, but younger ones are believed to be more resilient to losses; older gamblers on a fixed income most definitely are not.  They're retired - they can't go get a job and recoup any losses.  Worse still, older gamblers are the most reluctant to admit they have a problem. 

If you've been in a casino, you've seen your share of older gamblers, cane leaning against the slot machine or wheelchair parked conveniently nearby.  Frankly, I didn't consider oldeer peoples' gambling as such a much until I read this:  San Diego County has 10 casinos with a combined annual, gross revenue of $1.5 billion (billion) emplying 13,000  workers with an annual payroll of $270 million.  San Diego casinos attract 40,000 people daily.  

I think older people better stick to Bingo ....

An on-going topic based on "New Insights in Aging" by Mario Garrett. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Good News And Bad

"New Insights in Aging" by Mario Garrett   This is a book,  taken from a series of 500 word articles which ran on Tuesdays from September, 2010 to November, 2011, in the San Diego Union Tribune.

The good news - A 2010 AARP study reported that of adults aged 60 to 69, 42per cent of the males and 32 per cent of the females reported having had sex in the past week or month.  For those 70 years and older, 22 per cent of males and 11 percent of females report having had sex at least once a month.

The bad news - The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2005 one in four older adults had HIV/AIDS, up from 2001's one in six.  Now, one in seven  among older adults and a third of all AIDS deaths are older adults.  This is said to be because we're living longer.  Unfortunately older males disdain the use of a condom. 

This information was a double whammy for me in that I never thought that older folks got up to much in the way of friskiness (probably due to all of the e's I get about how seniors are falling apart)  let alone the fact that so many are exposed to sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs.) 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Hamburger Wars

The other day, Inn & Out Burger was a topic of discussion, namely their Unknown Menu.

Today, Fat Burger enters the fray with this news -- hamburgers are now being sold by weight:

Small - 2.5 oz
Medium - 5.3 oz.
Large - 8 oz.
XXL - 16 oz.
XXXL - 24 oz.

I find the Small perfect.  I know I've eaten a hamburger (albeit modest) so I can turn my full attention on finishing off the onion rings!

Fat Burger has won "Best Hamburger" in Bahrain, Dubai, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. 

Scarlet Pope Shoe Poll Results

Five correspondents responded to the question:  If copies of the Pope's scarlet shoes were available for purchase, would you buy and wear a pair?

Anderson, IN - "No."  My computer ate his response somewhere in Saved Mail, but I seem to remember a reluctance to spend money for a matching scarlet belt and the necessity to wear a dressier outfit than jeans and a shirt.

Seguin, TX - No.

Long Beach, CA - "Not even as a gay man would I wear shoes that color!"

Hermosa Beach, CA - No way!

San Diego, CA - "No, I like my shoes either brown or black."

San Pedro, CA - "Only if they were a good color match with my scarlet things."

So much for polls...

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Dressing the Pope

I read that the garmentos who make the Pope's schmattas have creatd three identical outfits in Small, Medium and Large for the incoming Pope.  Very thoughtful of them, but it made me wonder what they will do with the two rejected outfits.  Put them in zippered bags and hang them in a closet somewhere safe for the next Pope?

And the scarlet shoes.... the Pope is the only person in the entire Catholic heirarchy who is permitted -- nay, ordered --to wear them.  This naturally inspired me to a personal poll of men that I know.  They were all asked to respond to the question, "If the Pope's scarlet shoes were available in your local department store, would you buy a pair and wear them?"

As the responses trickle in, I will tabulate them and report back to you.  Should you like to be included, please send your response to    

Friday, March 8, 2013

Pop Culture

In a world filled with people, all shouting, "Look at me!" it is amusing to read the "secret" menu at ... are you ready?  Inn & Out Burger!   H/T to for this info....

Here are a few to whet your appetite... or disgust you that anyone would order such as the ...

100 x 100 - 100 beef patties and slices of cheese served on edge. i.e.  tipped sidewise.  Maybe for a pro football team's appetizer?

Protein style - no bun.  Instead the hamburger is wrapped in a lettuce leaf.

Flying Dutchman - two grilled patties, two slices of cheese and nothing else.  No bun, no lettuce, no nothing. 

Veggie-style - no meat, no cheese - lots of grilled onions, lettuce, tomato.

Animal style over fries - same as an animal style burger, but no bun.  Beef patty, what looks like 1,000 Island dressing, lettuce, etc.  Over fries, yet.   No bun.   Don't forget to ask for a knife and fork...

Ask for "Extra Toast, please" which means they leave the bun on the grill for a couple of seconds longer.

4 x 4 - four patties, four slices of cheese, lettuce, tomato.

Mustard-grilled patty - the raw beef is slathered with mustard and THEN cooked.

You can ask for chopped jalapenos on fries or your hamburger.

You can also do all of the above in your own kitchen!  I am going to try the mustard-slathered beef patty.  That sounds good, especially if the mustard forms a crust on the meat...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Slim Pickings for Redondo Voters

Today Redondo Beach residents were sent to the polls to vote on a new mayor, a District 4 City Council member, city attorney or a member of the Board of Education.  Four categories, 11 candidates and one Measure. 

Very little fuss has been made about this election - a spattering of campaign signs around town - but that would seem to be about it. 

In fact this is a nothing election except for Proposition A which has been dividing people left and right.  Essentially, it's a proposal for the City of Redondo to go onto privately-owned corporate grounds,  tear down the equipment and turn the site into a park.   I am absolutely against this.  The people who bought homes there knew for certain they would be living next to it.  It's hardly invisible and it covers a view of the Pacific ocean. .  Now the residents closest to it are whining about it.  "Oooh, it pollutes the air!"  This is unlikely as there is a steady breeze coming in off of the ocean and all of the fresh air anyone could want. 

Let me just step down from this soapbox - someone give me a hand... not as young as I used to be...(ooph)

Richie and I decided to go vote right after the gym and on the way there, I offered a wager on total numbers of voters when we showed up.  He bet "Six" and I bet "Eight."   After signing in, I asked one of the precinct workers and he said, "I'm handing out the 66th ballot" and did so. 

Clearly Proposition A brought them to their feet.  I must admit it's all I voted on, too.  

And lest I be chastised for not voting on the other matters;  in the matter of new members for the Board of Education - we have no children and I had never heard of any of the candidates.  Voting on that would have been the essence of a frivolous vote in my book. There is only one candidate for City Attorney and no write-in space even if I did have a candidate. 

Votes, ideally, must mean something.   

Monday, March 4, 2013

This Is Not the Way to Equality

It's racism, pure and simple.  I am referring to an article in today's Daily Breeze, page A11.

The headline is:  Historically Black College/University Fair (a phrase repeated four more times in the body of the article) to be held at El Camino College. 

The apparent purpose of this fair is for black students to learn about transfers to prominent historical black colleges, among them Howard University and Morehouse College.

The article continues, "Later this month, as a general transfer fair" which clearly translates as "all other colors come to the second fair." 

Why do these two fairs have to be held separately?  What's the purpose other than to intimidate ALL of the students.

Can you even begin to imagine the hue and cry if the word "white" was substituted for "black"?

That's why racism - on all hues of the color spectrum - is despicable.  I wish people would calmly sit down, wherever they may be - on a park bench, in a bus stop, on a subway, look about themselves and realize:  Hey, these are all real people, just like me -- we're all humans here, no matter the color of our skins.  We aren't separate versions of various skin colors.  The common denominator is:  we're all human beings.  So no more labels for "black this" and "black that."  No matter how often black people demand this separation.  That's racist.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

"Gravy" vs. Tomato Sauce

Our friend "D" weighed in on the burning question:  Why do Italians call tomato sauce "gravy" and wrote:

My two cents worth is from the Sopranos.  In the second season, Tony, Christopher and Paulie (he of the silver wings painted in his hair) head over to Naples.  At an evening dinner in a restaurant, Paulie asks the waiter to bring him some "gravy."  There is a communication problem - Paulie's Italian is very limited and the wait staff seems not to understand Jersey English.  The subtitles in English are very disparaging which leads me to believe the use of "gravy" in lieu of "sauce" is an American-Italian thing.  What with "gravy" being a big thing at the American dinner table in the 1800s and 1900s, and the Italian-Americans having their own cuisine, me thinks the Italians just accepted their sauce as gravy, either to fit in or to try to oneup the American dinner table."

Thank you for that scholarly explanation, "D."  It makes sense. 

Richie's cousin's late husband owned and chef'd at the excellent Maria's restaurant in Cap Coral, FL.  His widow writes, "My Gianni never called it gravy -- saucea only.  He was brought up in Naples, Italy.  My sisters-in-law never called it that.  They always added an "a" to sauceA, but I never did - I'm not Italian.  To me "gravy" always meant beef or chicken or turkey."

If you have a differing point-of-view,  please weigh in at

A Pearl of a Girl

Richie decided to make Jacque Pepin's Beef Stew.  The list of ingredients contained "pearl onions."  He said, "Are they the ones in the glass bottle?" 

"No! No!" I said, "Those are pickled for cocktails!  But I saw them at the supermarket the other day so they're in season." 

He only used half of the bag and the next day I looked at the bag tag and discovered that he could have perhaps cleaned them more easily if, as the tag instructs, he'd boiled them "as is" for three minutes, then run cold water over them, cut off the root end and pinched from the top - "until the onion slips out."  Next time; he's still got half a bag.

Still studying the tag, I began to wonder who "Frieda" was and, seeing that there is a Website - - I went to visit.

Frieda is 88 year old Frieda Rapoprt Caplan, who founded the company in 1962 from the LA Wholesale Produce Market.  Today she is the founder, her two daughters and now granddaughter run it from a location in Orange County.

Frieda went in for the exotic right from the start and if you like such as kiwifruit, elephant garlic, spaghetti squash, purple potatoes or Habanero chilies, say a polite "Thank you," to Frieda. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Super Sweet

Our friend "T" had us down for dinner recently and it was good!  Because he's been making both dishes probably since he was tall enough to see into a pot on the stove, he didn't think they were special at all! My offer to write a guest column fell on bored ears, followed by a dismissive wave.

So once again, all on my own (sigh) I had to take the reins in my hands and forge ahead.  (Nobody ever helps's always on my own initiative.  It's really not fair...)  I found the recipe for Chicken Adobo (Filippino style) at, an excellent site for hard-to-find recipes.   

The sweet rice dessert called "Beko" was not elusive - recipes abound for it, but they all had variations - cook the rice separately; no!  Cook it in the ingredients.  No one could make up their mind.  This is not going to be perfect because I didn't see how many ounces the cans of coconut milk contained, but it is "T
s" recipe.

1 box light brown sugar
2 1-quart-sized cans of coconut milk
3 cups sweet rice (available in the Asian foods section of your supermarket.) 

To prepare the rice - measure three cups of dry rice into a suitable container.  Start pouring in water - holding your middle finger vertical from the horizontal rice. wait till the water reaches the first joint of that finger.  Stop the water!  You've got enough to cook a perfect pot of rice. 

To prepare the syrup - stir the sugar into the coconut milk and simmer until it begins to thicken.  At that point, keep a close eye on it.  Setting aside a cup of syrup, mix the rest of it into the cooked rice, put rice and syrup into a large shallow pan, smoothing out the top.  Using the set-aside syrup, glaze the top of the rice and set aside to cool.  When ready to serve, cut the dish into squares and plate. 

How easy is that?  And it makes enough to feed most of the neighborhood, too.